LIGHT ON THE ANCIENT WORLDS
FRITHJOF SCHUON

Translated by Lord Northbourne
Second edition
World Wisdom Books

1. The Ancient Worlds in Perspective
2. In the Wake of the Fall
3. Dialogue Between Hellenists and Christians
4. The Shamanism of the Red Indians
5. Maya
6. Reflections on Naïvety
7. Man in the Universe
8. The Universality of Monasticism and its Relevance in the Modern World
9. Religio Perennis

 

CHAPTER I
THE ANCIENT WORLDS IN PERSPECTIVE

Two ideas dominating the poeples of antiquity: Center and Origin
Imperialism of ancient civilizations
Its Purpose
The complexity of Authority in Western Christianity
Three kinds of imperialism
Time and space in traditional worlds
Ethnic genius
The French and cathedrals
Renaissance: promethean betrayal
Difference between healthy civilizations and great paganisms
Why did they become extinct?
The Babylonians
The rigours of earthly existence in ancient times
Happiness and level of economic satisfaction
The misuse of the notion of "charity"
The knight of former days
The court of princes
About princely splendour
Worldliness is an anomaly in a traditional climate
The monk and the hermit
The crucial problem of obedience

CHAPTER II
IN THE WAKE OF THE FALL

Less importance to psychological contingencies in antiquity and the Middle Ages
Transition form objectivism to subjectivism repeats Adam's fall
Abolition of the very idea of truth
The European monarchs of the XXIX century
The mentality of today and time
The fatal consequence of an hypertrophied reflexivity
Three types of greatness in the Middle Ages
Criticism of modern science
Revelations, religions, wisdoms in all epochs and in all countries
Science does not inform us about the future
The very precision of modern science seriously threatened by systematizations of the irrational
Science presupposes a denial of the pure Intellect
One of the effects of modern science has been to give religion a mortal wound
Modern science represents itself in the world as the principal, or as the only purveyor of truth
Predominance of bad results over good in experimental science
The unbeliever recoils from the idea that all his actions will be weighed
What is outrageous in those who assert that “God is dead”
The cult of “nothingness” and of “anguish”
The current search for false absolutes of all planes
Modern man moves in the world as if existence were nothing
“Unbelievers” no longer have the sense either of nothingness or of existence
Every civilisation is a “two-edged sword”
Definition of Religious civilisations
Adam’s sin: to superimpose something on existence
The problem of the fall and the problem of the universal theophany
What is the prototype of the fall?
Plato and the human body as half a sphere
The whole cosmogonic process is found in man
For whom are prugatory and hell?
Indifference and spiritual impassibility
The fallen man: action and contemplation
About the “naturally supernatural” transcendence of the Intellect
The problem of action
Supra-formal conception of sin and archaic tradition
The handling of spiritual influences
To remain in holy infancy.

CHAPTER III
DIALOGUE BETWEEN HELLENISTS AND CHRISTIANS

Deep misunderstandings between Hellenists and Christians
A confrontation between two monologues rather than a dialogue
The Christian protest justified when directed to tje humanist side of classical Hellenism
The point of view of the Platonists on existence
The possibility of our return to God
Against the evolutionist prejudice giving to Aristotle the preminence
The pre-Socratic philosophers
The Sophists
Greek thought and realizational Christianity
Did the Platonists reject "arrogantly" Christ?
Religious dogmatists and Platonists
The two sources of certitude
The historicity of the Christ-Savior versus Platonic argument of the nature of things
The sapiential perspective and redemption

CHAPTER IV
THE SHAMANISM OF THE RED INDIANS

Definition of Shamanism
Spiritual quality of the Red Indians
Against a belief in a crude and pluralistic origin of religions
Distinction between the Demiurge and the supreme Spirit
Red Indian Cosmogony
What is the precise meaning that everything is “animated”?
The most eminent manifestations of the Great Spirit
The fourfold polarity of the cosmic qualities
The rite of the Calumet
The Sweat Lodge, Solitary Invocation and the Sun Dance
The magical practices of the Shamans
What is lying behind every sensible phenomenon
White and black magic
The "Ghost Dance"
Qualities of the Indians of the Plains
Is the Red Indian an individualist?
Wild Nature
To understand the abruptness of the break-up of the red Indian
The villainies of which the Indina has been a victim during several centuries
Fatality and evil

CHAPTER V
MAYA

Maya as “universal illusion”, “cosmic illusion”, “divine play”
Superiority of the doctrine of the Vedantists and of the Sufis
Maya inexplicable?
An aspect of absurdity in Maya
"Being" and "Non-Being"
Creation and "reintegration'
What is Man?
Space and time, circular
The mission of man

CHAPTER VI
REFLECTIONS ON NAIVETY

Everyone who lived in the past is naive?
Modern man and the risk of appearing naïve
Naive Middle Ages versus a breath-takingly intelligent 20th century?
Are our fathers responsible for all ills?
Analogy between the childhood of individuals and
that of peoples
Intrinsic and extrinsic naïvety
What is a naïvety that is merely the accompaniment of a lack of experience
Naïvety on the plane of physical sciences
Faith and magic, miracles
The scientific ingenuousness of the men of old
What is childish?
Characteristic of the ravages of “scientism” and of its special psychology
Tryin to reconstruct the psychology of ancestors
Naïvety and superstition versus intelligence
In our days everyone wants to appear intelligent
There is naïvety everywhere and there always has been
If the Bible is naïve, it is an honour to be naïve

CHAPTER VII
MAN IN THE UNIVERSE

What can and cannot do modern science?
When we look around us, what do we see?
God is the most dazzlingly evident of all evidences
What is the ego?
What is the nature of our existence?
The fact that we are imprisoned in our five senses
Goodness is in the very substance of the Universe
The symbolism of a fountain
Worlds are like living bodies
How the sage sees the world of phenomena?
The sage sees God in all things, and all things in God
What produces the principle of individuation?
There is in every man an incorruptible star

CHAPTER VIII
THE UNIVERSALITY OF MONASTICISM AND ITS RELEVANCE IN THE MODERN WORLD

The different monasticisms of the West and of the East
Man was created alone and he dies alone
The monk and the world
Monasticism defined as a “withdrawal for God”
In the case of Buddhism
Syncretism and eclecticism
Examples of Asiatic monasticisms
The monastic ideal
Our age tends more and more to cut man off from his roots
In our age man is defined by reference to the inextricable consequences of a Prometheanism
What means “Have dominion over the earth” in the Bible?
Inferiority complexes and mimetic reflexes are bad counsellors
The prejudice of science and the prejudice of society
How to explain the success of atheistic materialism?
The relevance of monasticism
Sure, religion must adapt to circumstances
Back to the modem scientific outlook
Pessimism of monasticism?
The condition of the monk
Only three certitudes: that of death, that of Judgment and that of the Eternal Life
The great mission of monasticism

CHAPTER IX
RELIGIO PERENNIS

Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or it is nothing
What is the essential function of human intelligence?
Metaphysical discernment
What is the Religion Perennis?
Intellect and Revelation
Religio Perennis in Christianity
Religio Perennis in Islam
Religio Perennis in Buddhism
Confrontation between a conception of man and a conception of God
The Proofs of God are in man himself
Concordance between the religio perennis and virgin nature
Conditions for a civilization to be integrated and healthy